Stoker (2013)


Wild, wacky film with a flimsy plot and strange, strange performances from just about everyone, but good visuals and a strong, unique directing style that elevates the thing a notch above the mere “B” picture it seems to be aspiring to with its story. Still, it’s a lazy, incoherent mess, and not everything works, especially the ending which **SPOILERS** had to be one of the most bizarre narrative “twists” I’ve ever seen, if you can even call it that. **END SPOILERS** I mean, what? Huh? How? It doesn’t work, yet, it’s not terrible either. In fact, some of it is quite brilliant, especially visually with all the parallel cuts and music cues and all that. Some of it is excessive too, sure, but some of it is extremely clever and fun to watch.

The film does have many of Chan-wook Park’s usual cinematic staples, at least: the shoes, the theme of big vs small, **SPOILERS** the disturbing child violence, the incest or implication of incest, the character who learns much about the world while confined against his will,  **END SPOILERS** etc etc. Some elements of the plot felt a lot like “Oldboy” actually, though the stories are completely different. It’s not as deranged as Oldboy, granted, but it comes close at times. Unfortunately what story it does have isn’t all that great or logical. The beginning kind of muddles for about a half hour or so, with the main character, played by a perpetually sulking Mia Wasikowska, passively moving to and from scene to scene without so much as a spark of interest in anything around her. I get that she’s supposed to be depressed and emotionally empty and all that, but man does it make for a dull lead character. Luckily it gets better once the plot kicks in and people start to die and you finally begin to understand why she is the way she is and why it’s important to the story, but for a half hour there, I was worried.

But the plot is ridiculous and makes no sense, like how did **SPOILERS** the brother know or suspect that Wasikowska’s character would be “like him”? Why was he so obsessed with her despite never having seen or met her before? And why did he want to seduce her anyway? What was the plan, there, exactly? Kill everyone who ever knew the truth about him, then take her as his bride and continue the homicidal killing spree elsewhere? How did he think he could get away with all that? Come to think of it, how was he able to get away with killing so many people, often out in the open, without anyone noticing or suspecting a thing, save the cop maybe, but let’s not get started on him and the ridiculous thing that happens at the end. **END SPOILERS** It’s just so clunky and questionable. And since when do good-looking jock guys bully attractive female loners the way they do Wasikowska here? What were they going to do, challenge her to a fist fight? Has the screenwriter ever actually been to high school? Ugh, a mess.

Overall, a narrative mess, but very strong visually, and some of it is quite effective, though for a Chan-wook Park, I was a touch disappointed by the lack of his trademark beautifully shot sex scenes. What gives, Park? Sure there’s one sort of scene involving a shower that’s kind of sexy, but there was nothing particularly creative or special about it. Very disappointing.  The orgasm piano scene was a nice touch, though. Never seen that before. But the film as a whole is a bit of a disaster story wise, as I keep saying. And what a weird, disingenuous performance by Nicole Kidman whom I didn’t believe at all here, not a word. Maybe it was intentional, but I never got the sense that she was telling the truth or feeling any of the emotions she was trying to get across here. It’s sort of off-putting, which, again, may have been intentional, but given other performances I’ve seen her in, I don’t know. She’s not a bad actress by any means, she just has a tendency to over do it in certain roles.

So, I don’t know. Not a terrible film despite its terrible plot, thanks to the fine, expert direction. And the film is just about the perfect length: not too long, not too short. But the ending, ugh. Why? What? I get the film is full of symbolism and stuff and the ending is just an extension of that, but the story is so lazy and odd and clunky that it almost doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make sense. Still, worth watching, for the visuals if anything else.

    • Susan Hill
    • January 4th, 2018

    He was a psychopath, not suffering from a ‘mental illness’. Very different indeed.

  1. To answer your question about how Charlie knew India was like him – the housekeeper he killed at the beginning had been feeding him information for years. And he responded with letters to try to get to know her (even though she never got them since her father was hiding them). The movie actually does make sense because of the hereditary link of mental illness; by the end, Charlie had accomplished his mission of awakening that impulse within her, except he assumed they would be killing people together like Bonnie and Clyde. India’s father had been trying to curb her nature all her life because he recognized the signs having gone through it with his little brother, Charlie; this is why he took her on hunting trips so much. Unfortunately, now that he is no longer around to act as her moral compass, she has now upgraded to hunting humans.

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